Wandy emerges as stabilizing cog in rotation

Lefty attacks zone vs. Royals, continues stellar comeback campaign

Wandy emerges as stabilizing cog in rotation

KANSAS CITY -- The Rangers are adding Rookie of the Year candidates by the week, but their list of Comeback Player of the Year candidates is also growing.

Hit machine Prince Fielder, leading the American League with a .356 batting average, could be the early leader, but left-hander Wandy Rodriguez is trying to enter the discussion as well.

After two years of dealing with injuries and discarded by two National League teams, Rodriguez has helped stabilize the Rangers' pitching staff. He did that again on Saturday afternoon, allowing one run in seven innings of a 4-2 win over the Royals at Kauffman Stadium.

He has been overlooked because of all the young talent being brought to the big leagues, but the addition of Rodriguez is one reason why the Rangers are four games over .500.

"Stabilizer," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. "He has taken on a front end of the rotation type of attitude, shouldering a lot of innings and being a veteran presence. He is a guy who has been through a lot of battles and significant games."

The Rangers gave Rodriguez a two-run lead in the first and added two more runs in the second. Rodriguez knew exactly what to do with a 4-0 lead.

"He continued to attack the strike zone, got their hitters in a swing mode and then expanded the strike zone," Banister said. "When you get a veteran pitcher like Wandy or [Colby Lewis], they understand when you get a lead it's about going after hitters and attacking the strike zone."

Rodriguez mainly mixed a sinker with a curveball that has been outstanding since his arrival. He did not walk a batter, struck out four and got 11 of 21 outs on ground balls. He threw 97 pitches, 65 for strikes.

"Today my curveball was very good, and I used it a lot," Rodriguez said. "My location was very good with my fastball."

Rodriguez made just 18 starts the past two seasons for the Pirates while dealing with injuries. He was released on May 30 last season and again by the Braves at the end of Spring Training. The Rangers signed him to a Minor League contract on April 6 just as their rotation was falling apart.

"We saw him pitch good in the Dominican Republic in winter ball and tried to sign him but he chose Atlanta," general manager Jon Daniels said. "When he was free after camp, we jumped at the chance to add him."

Rodriguez has helped bring the rotation back together since being called up on April 24. This is a guy who won 48 games for the Astros in 2009-12 during a time when they were rebuilding.

Now, he is 3-2 with a 3.25 ERA after nine starts. The Rangers are 6-3 when he is on the mound.

"I have my great curveball," Rodriguez said. "I have what I need. There is nothing else I can say."

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.